Exercising the craft—August 5, 2013

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: Home from your vacation, you flip through the photos on your camera. As you pass a picture of a busy street, something catches your eye, something you didn’t see at the time. You slowly zoom in on a face in the crowd. When the image focuses, you gasp, dropping the camera to the floor. Who did you see? What was the person doing?


Before Dana could think about it she picked up the camera and began scrolling through the pictures on the memory stick.  A smile reluctantly crept across her face.  Their last vacation had started out so well.

She stopped at the picture of the Statue of Liberty taken from the heart of Manhattan.  What had compelled Brad to take the photo at that time?  Why hadn’t he waited until they’d boarded the ferry?  He would have gotten a much better shot that way…

The last picture alerted something in the back of Dana’s mind, and she stared at it.  After scanning the picture for a few minutes, she zoomed in and started moving the picture back and forth on the screen to figure out what had caught her eye.  Suddenly she saw it—what Brad’s camera managed to capture before he stopped taking pictures that day—and the shock of it jerked the camera out of Dana’s hand and toward the floor.  Within seconds she’d sunk to her knees.

The man in the picture had his gun focused on someone else, but Dana had had to look a second time to make sure he hadn’t intentionally targeted Brad.  The police called it a random shooting, but obviously the man wanted to shoot someone.  Dana had brought up the question after the autopsy, but she got the verbal equivalent of a shrug.  In a gargantuan city like New York, who knew what criminals did what or why they did it?  And who could keep up with them?

Dana still didn’t know the Why, but at least she had the Who.

Seeing the Who hadn’t caused the shallow breathing that Dana couldn’t seem to control, however.  She and Brad had gone to New York on vacation, and they didn’t know anyone there.  No one could have possibly wanted to target Brad.

Dana tried to breathe deeply but instead discovered that her pulse had begun racing.  Because not only did she see the Who on the camera: she’d also seen who the gunman had originally wanted to target. Dana could only see part of the woman’s profile, but the crying child in her arms looked over the woman’s shoulder in mid-shriek.  The woman’s stiff stance gave evidence to that gut-check breath every mother draws when she jerks her child close to her.

Bile curdled Dana’s stomach.  Who would want to kill a woman and her child?  And why?  When the tears began hitting her knees, she tried to wipe them away.  She’d already shed her share.  She couldn’t afford anymore.  Not when someone else needed her help.

Urgency brought Dana to her feet.  The tears kept coming, but she picked up the phone and began dialing the long-distance number she’d memorized.  Try as she might the tears wouldn’t stop, but she managed to steady her voice when the other party answered.

“Hello, New York City police department?  May I speak to Detective Palmer, please?”

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